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SHERIDAN — A man filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sheridan’s Walmart after his wife died as a result of what he says was a bacterial contamination of a cantaloupe purchased at the supercenter.
The plaintiff, Frederick M. Lollar, was appointed the wrongful death representative for his wife, Jacqueline, this spring, and the lawsuit was filed in Laramie County’s 1st Judicial District Court March 18.
According to court documents, the Lollars purchased the cantaloupe around Sept. 1, 2011. Lollar ate approximately one-quarter of the melon and his wife ate the remainder over the course of the next few days.
The Food and Drug Administration later identified the lot the cantaloupe came from to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The lawsuit states prior to the FDA announcement Sept. 14, 2011, Walmart had pulled the cantaloupe from its shelves, but did not post any public notice regarding potential customer exposure to contaminated food.
Lollar’s complaint indicates that during that time, Lollar had returned to the store, as he bought most of his food there, and asked an unnamed Walmart employee why cantaloupes were not available at the store for purchase.
The employee did not inform Lollar of the recall, and only indicated there were none available but that they should be back in stock soon. It is unclear whether the produce employee did not know of the recall or simply did not offer all information regarding the reason for the product’s unavailability.
Walmart’s Director of National Media Relations Randy Hargrove said in a statement to The Sheridan Press Friday afternoon that the company is committed to customer safety and takes food safety concerns seriously.
“As soon as we were made aware of a Listeria outbreak associated with cantaloupes from the Rocky Ford growing area, we immediately began removing cantaloupes sourced from that region,” Hargrove said in the written statement. “We were not aware of this claim until the lawsuit was filed.”
He added that because the litigation is ongoing, he could not comment on details of the case.
Court documents state that a few weeks after consuming the melon, both of the Lollars became ill with symptoms similar to the common flu. However, Jaqueline Lollar’s condition progressed. She was admitted to Sheridan Memorial Hospital and died Sept. 19, 2011.
Post-mortem blood tests confirmed the presence of the bacteria with a genetic fingerprint matched to strains associated with the known outbreak.
The lawsuit alleges Walmart employees did not provide adequate public information regarding the known potential health risk, and deviated from the customer commitment to quality and safety represented to Wyoming consumers.
Frederick Lollar is suing for monetary, physical and emotional damages.
Sheridan Walmart store manager, Matt Gomke, and Randy Johnson, who was produce manager at the time, have been named as defendants along with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
According to the 1st Judicial District Court, no hearing for the lawsuit has been scheduled at this time.